PURPOSE: To determine the level of pain reported by survivors of serious illness 2 and 6 months after study enrollment and to identify variables associated with later pain. PATIENTS AND METHODS: Observational cohort study of patients with interviews during hospitalization (5,652) and 2 (3,782) and 6 (2,984) months later admitted between June 1989 and January 1994 with 1 or more of 9 high mortality diagnoses admitted to 5 tertiary care academic centers in the United States. Patients' level of pain during the hospitalization and 2 and 6 months later was determined from interviews with patients and surrogates (most often family members). Separate ordinal logistic regressions were constructed with level of pain at months 2 or 6 as the dependent variable and 22 demographic, psychological, chronic, and acute illness measures at the time of hospitalization as independent variables. RESULTS: Of patients reporting level 4 (moderately severe pain occurring most of the time or extremely severe pain occurring half of the time) or 5 (moderately severe pain occurring most or all of the time or extremely severe pain occurring at least haft of the time) pain to 5 during hospital interviews, 39.5% and 39.7% reported level 4 or 5 pain 2 and 6 months later, respectively. Level of hospital pain was the variable most strongly associated with later pain. Compared with patients with level 1 hospital pain, those with level 2 (not at all severe pain or moderate, occasional) had a 2.91 (95% confidence interval [CI] 2.50, 3.37) and 1.75 (CI 1.48, 2.07) times greater adjusted odds of increased levels of pain 2 and 6 months later, respectively. Compared with patients with level 1 hospital pain, those with level 5 pain had a 9.20 (CI 7.27, 11.65) and 4.40 (CI 3.39, 5.71) times greater adjusted odds of increased levels of pain 2 and 6 months later, respectively. Age, number of dependencies in activities of daily living, depression, and type of comorbid illnesses were also independently associated with level of pain both 2 and 6 months later. CONCLUSION: Survivors of the serious and common illnesses that we studied have a high level of pain during hospitalization and up to 6 months after hospitalization. Level of hospital pain was most strongly associated with later pain. Better pain control both during hospitalization and after discharge should be given a high priority. Pain during hospitalization should trigger future inquiries about pain and its treatment.
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